Reboot Reality

The Tech’s new exhibit is an ambitious experiment in immersive tech.

A bright-eyed 6-year-old tentatively draws a curved line on a touchscreen. She twists the bright blue line into a wing before tracing a green oval, then she flicks two pink antennae into place. She smiles as she spins and rotates her artwork, delighting in her new butterfly.

A 50-year-old man, who insists he’s “not really a tech guy,” puts on a VR headset and takes a controller in each hand. When he looks down he sees a virtual palette holding an array of “paint.” He selects a color, then waves his hands to create swaths that hang in midair and animated vines pulsing with what looks like electricity. He steps through the design, adding flourishes here and there as he admires his handiwork.

A teenager dons a headset to experience a 360-degree film taken from the view of a homeless person. He looks in every direction, soaking in an entirely new side to his hometown — the reality of poverty. The experience makes him feel overcome with empathy and determined to think of solutions to help his neighbors.

These are just tastes of the many experiences visitors may have in Reboot Reality, an immersive media studio at The Tech. The new space will allow visitors of all ages to explore augmented reality, virtual reality and mixed reality — and their own power to create, and solve problems, with new technology.

“There are going to be things in Reboot Reality that you can’t see anywhere else.”

The Tech is teaming up with companies, researchers, artists and innovators from around the world to create a dynamic and ever-changing scene.

“There are going to be things in Reboot Reality that you can’t see anywhere else,” said Dan Streelman, director of exhibit development. “You’ll be met with a plethora of experiences from digital painting on state-of-the-art touchscreens to composing music to being transported to a whole new world in a VR headset.”

The space will open in May, though visitors may be allowed in for sneak peeks earlier. Partners like Google, Adobe and HP have already been brought on board to bring their latest and greatest tech to the exhibit, but that’s not the only goal.

“This won’t just be a place where people come in and experience new tech. It’s a place where people actually create with new technology and feel inspired to use their experience long after they leave,” said Prinda Wanakule, director of experience development and prototyping. “I’m really excited for the potential of AR, VR and mixed media to tell immersive stories that instill hope and empathy in how kids see the world.”

People may also surprise themselves when creating with this new wave of digital media. For example, onscreen technology requires different spatial reasoning than sculpting something with your hands. So when entering an experience like Google Tilt Brush, don’t be surprised if you unlock an inner 3D artist who never had the right tools to flourish.

“In some ways, mixed reality will level the playing field,” Wanakule said. “Many will find it more freeing than current CAD (computer assisted design) modeling where you have to exactly align two points to click. Silicon Valley can’t keep designing tech for fellow engineers or just those who can afford the technology. We hope Reboot Reality will help our community design tech for all.”

Reboot Reality opens May 26, 2017, thetech.org/rebootreality.